Posts Tagged ‘Pete Carroll’

What’s the deal with Omar Hunter?

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

By some basically all accounts he’s scheduled to take an official visit to Florida, and USC looks to be in the mix as well:

Buford defensive tackle Omar Hunter is having second thoughts about his commitment to Notre Dame, his coach said Wednesday.

Coach Jess Simpson said Hunter has not withdrawn his commitment to the Irish - yet. But he is giving strong consideration to both Florida and Southern California - with Florida being the more likely alternative to Notre Dame, Simpson said.

“I think he wants to take the holidays and reconsider things,” Simpson said, “and possibly take a visit to Florida and [USC].”

There has never been a shortage of interest in Hunter, who is rated the second-best high school defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com. The 6-foot-1, 311-pound senior committed to Notre Dame in June, but has apparently become less certain in recent months.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis tried to firm up Hunter’s commitment last week with a personal visit to Buford. And later in the week, USC coach Pete Carroll also showed up, urging Hunter to take another trip out west.

Hunter, who could not be reached for comment, did not have any visits planned as of Wednesday. He visited Florida and USC before committing to the Irish, and has enough time to see both schools again if he wants before signing a letter of intent in February.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Simpson said.

A couple of quick thoughts:

  1. Obviously Omar is entitled to think things through and make sure he makes the best decision for himself and his future. If he feels like he was too hasty in giving his pledge to Notre Dame back in June, then by all means he should own up to that fact and take a closer look at his options now. A verbal commitment is not a marriage vow.
  2. He’s not, however, entitled to mislead the Irish coaching staff about where he stands. What’s bothersome to me about this whole situation is that this isn’t the first time that worries like this have surfaced, and Omar has consistently reiterated that he is committed to ND and doesn’t intend to look elsewhere. Obviously it’s possible that he’s been saying different things to the staff than to the recruiting sites, but if that were so then I’d expect to have seen Weis continue to recruit other players at Hunter’s position. In other words, this could turn out to be a situation that is less like that of Justin Trattou - who was very upfront about the fact that he was taking a visit to Florida because of Rick Minter’s firing - than Greg Little - who was silently committed to North Carolina for months as he put up a charade of being an ND recruit. Obviously Omar’s situation doesn’t look to be THAT shady, but if he’s had his doubts all along, then he shouldn’t have kept them from the people who were expecting his signature on February 7.

Who knows … maybe he’ll change his mind and decide not to make the visits. Maybe he’ll make them and decide to stay at ND. Or maybe he’s gone. In any case, I’m sure the coaching staff isn’t going to let themselves get burned like they did last year. If he’s looking, they’re looking - and heck, last year the decommitment of Trattou was a big part of what got an offer extended to Brian Smith … and we all know how that turned out.

Fully on board

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Via the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton, here’s some great stuff about the strength of the commitments among ND’s 2008 recruiting class:

Dayne Crist is a part-time Christmas tree salesman in Southern California and a full-time committed recruit for the Notre Dame football team. This means his hour-long break from hawking evergreens is a rare escape from needles, of any kind.

“You know who you’re talking to,” Crist said. “You’re talking to a kid from Los Angeles that’s sitting in the heart of USC country.”

The breadth and depth of the Irish’s miseries this season spared few from collateral damage, and indeed Notre Dame’s ballyhooed recruiting class endured more than a few caustic barbs.

Despite the slings and arrows that accompanied Notre Dame’s outrageous misfortune, though, that class so far is undeterred. Not a single component of what is widely considered the nation’s top talent haul has wavered publicly after the implosion of 2007. (more…)

Taking Stock, Part II: Identity crisis

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

(This is Part 2 in a series of three posts evaluating the first eight weeks of the season and looking forward to what’s ahead. Part 1, “19 reasons why Notre Dame’s offense has sucked so badly in 2007,” is available here.)

Will the real Charlie Weis please stand up?

In the span of a mere three years, the head coach of the Fighting Irish has gone from an unknown quantity with a whole lot of jewelry on his fingers, to the savior of a program that had been mired in a decade of mediocrity, to a clever schemer with a penchant for running up the score on service academies who couldn’t win the big game, to an inept loser arrogantly presiding over the downfall of his alma mater’s proudest athletic program. The following numbers might be able to give some sense of the reasons for this transition:

Put another way, for those of you who prefer graphical representations to hard statistics:

And again, if you’d really just rather have it summed up in a picture:

Nope, there’s no way to get around it: the 2007 version of the Fighting Weises has been bad - really bad, especially on the offensive end. And I argued yesterday that none of the eighteen other explanations we might give of this team’s struggles can carry as much weight as the one that starts and ends with the head coach himself. In case my argument wasn’t good enough for you, though, here’s Weis saying pretty much the same thing in his Tuesday press conference:

Q. For those of us who haven’t followed Notre Dame football as closely as those people who cover it on a regular basis or are fans, could you kind of just quickly summarize what you feel has happened this year? Is it simply a case of being hit hard by graduation and the younger players who have been asked to fill in just haven’t performed or were not ready or the inexperience? In your overall big picture analysis, what’s led to 1 and 7?

COACH WEIS: Well, that’s a loaded question. (laughter) Well, first of all, let’s start with coaching, because what you just did in your question is gave me about 15 different excuses for us being 1 and 7, so why don’t we just start with 1 probably, with the transition that we’ve had from last year to this year, have not done the best job of having the team ready to go on a week in and week out basis, and we probably should leave it at that one because if you are looking for me to give you a whole dossier of problems that have happened this year, there would be too many things. If you want good fodder, let’s just throw me out there, okay.

Q. But in general, though, the fact that you have such an inexperienced team is a crucial factor…

COACH WEIS: It’s a factor, but that’s what it is. It’s a factor. It’s not the factor. There’s a lot of things that come — I think when you do that — once again, it would be easy for me to sit there and say, well, if these five things weren’t the case we’d be 7 and 1 right now. Well, the problem is they are the case. I started with what I felt was the number one reason, and I think that if you start with the head coach doing a better job, then you’d probably have a better record.

Now, all of this raises a natural question: which Weis is the real Weis? The one whose team had nineteen wins, many of them in blowout fashion, in 2005 and 2006, going to two straight BCS bowls and re-writing the offensive record books in the process, or the one who’s the head coach of a bowl-ineligible team that’s currently 1-7 and on pace to re-write those record books in quite a different way?

The primary schools of though on this question break down into two major groups:

  • The Dr. Jekyll Theory: Charlie Weis is an offensive genius and a brilliant head coach who’s simply been crippled by an undertalented and inexperienced roster this year. Sure, he’s made some mistakes in the way he’s done things - e.g. by not having enough full-contact practices, or doing too much scheming instead of taking a more piecemeal approach - but on the whole there aren’t any problems he can’t fix. We just need to be patient with him, and give him a chance to get his players on the field.
  • The Mr. Hyde Theory: Charlie Weis is the worst coach in the universe. He’s too fat, too stupid, too stubborn, and too ugly. He rode the coattails of Tom Brady while he was with the Patriots, and did the same with Brady Quinn and the rest of Tyrone Willingham’s recruits in his first two years at Notre Dame. Now, without a bunch of stars to carry him along, his true ineptitude is being exposed.

The argument I want to make here is that Charlie Weis is actually both of these characters at once: he’s Dr. Jekyll AND Mr. Hyde, the creative genius AND the over-scheming fool, the coach who squeezes the most out of his veteran players AND the man lucky enough to ride his star talent to victory. In other words, what we’ve seen in 2007 is just the other side of the coin from the previous two years.

Here’s why I say this. In the first place, I think the advocates of the “Mr. Hyde” theory are right to insist that the deficiencies in Weis’s coaching this year have gone far beyond problems of the “learning curve” variety: for example, while there’s no doubt that Weis was speaking truly when he said that he’s never been part of a team that practiced full-speed during the season, it’s also the case that he has a number of assistants on his team who presumably have seen that done, as well as other college coaches he knows who can tell him how they practice with their own squads. And even as Weis has begun to alter the way he runs practices, the reports I’ve seen indicate that the changes have been less than wholesale (with the possible exception of the “back to training camp” week following the Michigan game). In other words, the fact that Weis runs his practices in this particular way seems to be more than just an accident, more than just the result of ignorance: it’s plausibly an essential, if not quite central, aspect of the way he thinks that teams should prepare for games.

Similarly, consider the case of game-by-game adjustments in the offensive schemes. There’s no doubt that this sort of thing is a crucial part of Weis’s approach to gameplanning, and that it was a huge element of his success in the NFL and in his first two seasons with the Irish. But there’s also no denying that it’s been a big part of what’s kept this offense from generating any consistent production. The key thing, though, is that this sort of constant tinkering is just a part of who Weis is: if he doesn’t do it, he simply isn’t going to be successful; but when he does do it, it’s sometimes going to blow up in his face.

In other words, both of these examples - and I think there are many, many others - suggest that the aspects of Weis’s coaching style that have doomed the 2007 squad aren’t just accidental traits of a coach trying to figure out the college game. Rather, they’re just parts of what make him Charlie Weis, as opposed to Tyrone Willingham, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, or Pete Carroll. And so on reflection, it really shouldn’t be surprising that with Weis at the head, this particular Irish team has performed so poorly. He simply isn’t the right coach to make this group look even mildly respectable against teams like the ones they’ve played so far.

But on the other hand … there’s NO reason to deny the obvious fact that VERY SAME coaching style was a HUGE part of Notre Dame’s success in 2005 and 2006. Given a (relatively) experienced group of savvy veterans, a quarterback who soaked up the playbook like a sponge and practically had to be dragged from the practice field when it was time for his backup to take some snaps, a versatile tailback and a group of wide receivers who together were proficient at every aspect of the game (rushing, blocking, route-running, pass-catching, blitz-pickup, and so on), an experienced offensive line with the ability to make game-by-game adjustments, and so on, Weis was able to put together an offensive attack that had his team in national championship contention for two straight years. Chalking that up solely to dumb luck, or even to the undeniable greatness of Brady Quinn & Co., smacks of the sort of myopia that one expects only from a delusional Michigan alum.

In other words: my proposal is that it’s just a fact about Charlie Weis’s talents and coaching style that, given an experienced group of talented veterans, he can put together a dynamic offense with a chance to win a national championship. At the same time, though, its a fact about those very same talents and that very same coaching style that they don’t work well at getting a bunch of scrappy youngsters consistently to piece together any semblance of an offensive attack. It’s a both/and, not an either/or.

What this means, though, is that the biggest challenge facing Charlie Weis isn’t necessarily that of “learning how to be a college coach”: he’s already given ample evidence that he can do a damn good job of that, given the right players. And note once again that by “right players” I don’t mean “superstars all around”: with the exception of the quarterback position, Notre Dame never had the level of talent on offense in 2005 and 2006 that teams like USC and Michigan had. The crucial task, in other words, is that of transforming Jimmy Clausen, James Aldridge, Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Duval Kamara, Robby Parris, Golden Tate, Will Yeatman, Mike Ragone, Dan Wenger, Sam Young, Matt Romine, Eric Olsen, and the rest into the kinds of players that Quinn, Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzija, Maurice Stovall, Rhema McKnight, John Carlson, Anthony Fasano, Mark LeVoir, Dan Santucci, Ryan Harris, Bob Morton, and John Sullivan were in 2005 and 2006: not just a bunch of players with enough talent to win a lot of games, but a group of hard-working players who showed up ready to go each week, were competent enough to do what he asked them to do, and - by and large, anyway - responded well to Weis’s coaching style. Given that, there’s every reason to think that Weis can once again make the Irish a team to be feared.

The question is, how do we get from here to there? It’s not just about allowing players to mature physically, drilling the playbook into them, or even teaching them the proverbial fundamentals. Rather, I think the key question is whether Weis can get these young players to keep their heads in the game, to continue working hard - on Saturday afternoons as well as on the practice field, in the weight room, in film study, and so on, both through the remainder of this season and through the offseason that will follow it. And the difficulty is that with the way the first eight games of 2007 have gone, the possibility of having players get discouraged and just give up is a real one.

But that’s a topic for tomorrow’s post …

Trojans inspect playing field, continue to whine

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

I know I promised an injury update for today’s game, but this article in the LA Times was just too funny to let pass. So instead of the usual detailed breakdown (quick version: Aldridge won’t play, Grimes has reportedly looked a bit hobbled in practice, Wenger is back, no word that I’ve seen on Crum; and see here for the veritable litany of busted Trojans), I submit to you: The Victors, Two Years Later.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Most of USC’s players strolled casually onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium on Friday for the Trojans’ walk-through before today’s game against the Fighting Irish.

But Desmond Reed never broke stride as he sprinted to the far end zone on grass significantly shorter and more manicured than it was in 2005, when Reed suffered torn right knee ligaments and nerve damage while turning to field a ball on a kickoff return. [Ed: TURNING to field it, mind you - on which see more below.]

Reed said last year he thought the grass was grown long intentionally to slow down the Trojans and that it caused his injury.

“They actually cut it,” defensive line coach Dave Watson said.

Said Dennis Slutak, USC’s director of football operations: “You could actually hit a golf ball out of this.” [Ed: Apparently Slutak isn't much of a golfer. Somebody want to get Ty Willingham on the phone to help him out?]

That’s right, folks. Two years after winning - WINNING!! - at Notre Dame stadium in a game that ended with a series of questionable calls and non-calls which Charlie Weis and (so far as I can recall) the rest of the Irish chose not to question, and after which Weis took his son into the SC locker room to congratulate the players and coaches on their victory, following which the Trojans won out the rest of the season on their way to the BCS national title game, their players and staff are STILL complaining about the length of the grass back on October 15, 2005.

Nor are their gripes limited to Irish fields of lore. Pete Carroll, for one, is already gearing up to make excuses for this year’s game:

… on Friday, after walking the field, Carroll said he was surprised it did not have a uniform feel.

“I don’t understand why it’s like that, I mean who plays here?” he said. “They sharing it with a local JC or something?”

It’s hard not to take this as evidence that either (1) Carroll can’t read or understand English, or (2) he’s a whiny scumbag who’s unwilling to respect what an opposing coach has to say about the state of his own playing field. Otherwise, the Poodle’s remarks might have taken account of this, from Weis’s Tuesday press conference:

this is the Midwest, and we’re going to play five games in a row at home. That’s where we are right now. Now, fortunately this is only game two. But it isn’t like our grass grows like we’re living in the south. It is what it is. It’s patchy and it’s not the same as playing on Bermuda grass in the south. It isn’t like we were playing on field turf; I don’t think that would go over too well in Notre Dame tradition. It’s grass, it’s mid October, it’s not as perfect as it would be earlier in the year. That’s just the way it is.

That’s right, Petey. It’s SOUTH BEND FRICKING INDIANA. It’s either too hot or too cold or too sunny or too rainy or too damn snowy about, oh, 257 days a year, and so the grass don’t grow quite like it does in sunny LA. And no, the only junior college with which the Irish are sharing their field is the one whose football team you coach. (Zing!)

Now, you might think that Reed’s gripe is a bit more legitimate, given the seriousness of the injury he suffered against the Irish two years ago. But if you did think that, then you’d be failing to take into account the excellent detective work that the guys at the IRT did before last year’s SC game:

How many of these pundits have actually gone back to watch the play which ended Reed’s season? Not many. If they did, they would clearly see that this was a player way out of position in the first place. It is our assertion that the grass was not the culprit here, but a player out of position.

Now, with the help of photographic evidence obtained through NBC we can reconstruct the play and prove that Reed is to blame for the injury. Not the grass.

Reed1.jpeg

This is the first screenshot from the kickoff where Reed was injured. This is the first moment the Reed enters the screen. He is the cut off figure on the right hand side of the photo near Notre Dame’s 14 yard line.

Reed2.jpeg

Here is Reed running back to field the kickoff between the 8 and 9 yard lines.

Reed3.jpeg

At the five yard line Reed makes a weird turn to try and field the ball flying over his head. This is where he goes down.

Reed4.jpeg

Here is Reed laying on the 2 yard line as the ball sails over his head. Clearly, if Reed was positioned to field the kick-off on the goal line, there would be no discussion of tall grass and Weis’ desire to injure and maim opposing players.

You make the call. Here at the Roundup, though, the company position is that the Trojans are a bunch of whiny bitches, and they’re going to get their asses handed to them this afternoon, no matter what the field may look like.

Go Irish, dammit.

Get your hate on

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Hollywood is a breeding ground for a–holes
Wallets get as big as Reggie Bush’s
Skinny girl, eat some more food
Muscle man, you look like a f–king freak

Hollywood is a nice place for the weekend
Not a place for a nice person to live
Football star, no one likes you
How’d ya learn to be so f–king mean?

Take me home to sweet South Bend
Big women at the ‘Backer
This Saturday (YEAH)
Come and see the Irish win

LET’S GO!

- NoFX, “San Francisco Fat” (censored and otherwise tweaked)

Perhaps it’s a bit of Post-BC Fatigue Syndrome or maybe some general exhaustion after a 1-6 start, but the Irish netroots have been surprisingly quiet about tomorrow’s showdown against SC. But while I can’t speak to the mood on the team or around campus, I can tell you that there’s no shortage of excitement on tap around my own home:


(Gear courtesy of bamfshirts.com)

That’s right folks, it’s FREAKING SC week! And all we can hope for is that Saturday’s game goes as badly for the Trojans as their plane flight into the ‘Bend:

USC’s football team, coaches and staff endured several terrifying minutes as their chartered flight to South Bend plummeted amid a severe thunderstorm, forcing the pilot to abort his first landing attempt.

USC sports information director Tim Tessalone told The Associated Press on Friday that some passengers were thrown from their seats by turbulence as lightning cracked around the storm-tossed aircraft about 9 p.m. Thursday.

“It was a little bit of a roller coaster drop there for a minute,” he said. “We had some people fly out of some seats. Everybody is fine, but it was a frightening little dip there.”

The pilot aborted the approach and circled around the storm before landing without incident about 20 minutes later to the relief of the shaken team and the spouses of some staff members also on the flight, Tessalone said.

Safety Taylor Mays said he was screaming.

At their hotel, senior defensive end Lawrence Jackson said he was going to see the team trainer because a Popsicle stick had pierced the inside of his mouth during the drop.

“That was terrifying,” fullback Stanley Havili said. “I thought I was going to die.”

Quarterback John David Booty said, “It wasn’t the worst flight I’ve ever been on, but it was definitely the biggest drop.”

Saturday’s weather report, unfortunately, calls for clear skies and temperatures in the low-70s, but not to fear: the playing field at ND stadium has once again been populated with miniaturized leprechauns with tiny little dart guns, with clear instructions to attack Trojan players and Trojan players only. (Oh, and Pete Carroll, too.) Good luck running wild in the midst of that, jagoffs.

Speaking of running: as the Irish pass defense begins to get the credit they actually deserve (that’s right, Bob Kravitz, you are an ass), and the USC quarterback situation still up in the air [EDIT: Not anymore. It's Dirty Sanchez, baby!], it’s worth taking a quick look into the question of whether the Irish have a chance to slow down a Southern Cal (yeah, I said it again) running game that currently ranks 24th in the nation at 198.2 yards per game.

For comparison’s sake, here’s what the Irish have done against the run so far this year, together with their opponents’ averages and national rankings in rushing offense:

One thing these numbers reveal is that part of the reason the Irish run defense has looked so bad, especially on paper (ranked 93rd overall, giving up 186.7 yards a game), may be due to the fact that so many of the teams ND has played so far have simply had terrific running attacks overall: by the numbers, Tailback U’s splenderrific ground game is only the fourth-best the Irish will have faced this year. Moreover, a quick comparison between the season-long rushing averages for ND’s opponents and the yards they gained on the ground against the Irish reveals that in only three of seven games have ND’s opponents gained more rushing yards than usual.

A closer look at the numbers for SC’s ground game reveals a similar situation:

The Trojans, in other words, have not exactly played a bunch of run-stoppers: and while they’ve exceeded their opponents’ averages for rushing yards allowed in all but one case (the loss to Stanford), there’s definitely reason to take a bit of hope from these numbers.

If the Irish can continue to build on their (relative) defensive successes from the past few weeks - note that if we factor out the 52-yard run on BC’s opening drive, their rushing average drops to 3.52 yards per carry on the day - and hold the Trojans under, say, 160 140 rushing yards tomorrow, I have to think they’ll have a shot. This is, of course, predicated on continuing to defend the pass well and so keeping SC’s rather mediocre 57th-ranked air attack (that’s only 232 yards per game) under wraps, perhaps forcing a turnover or two, and (here’s where it gets unlikely) also showing some signs of freaking life - and perhaps doing less stupid crap - on offense against a Trojan defense that has been nothing short of dynamic thus far, having given up more than 250 or so total yards only to Nebraska. (A few hopeful statistics, though: SC ranks only 86th in the nation with just ten forced turnovers, 55th with twelve sacks, and 86th with 33 tackles for a loss.) Whether the Irish can pull this off, especially without James Aldridge, is naturally the biggest question going into gameday, though if ND can force Saturday’s matchup into the same kind of game they played two weeks ago against UCLA - and that UCLA played against USC last year - we may get to see the Pete Carroll Face once again:

Ahh, good stuff, that.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow morning with some injury updates on both teams and perhaps some more thoughts on the game.

News and Notes: 9/27

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

As noted by BGS, Michael Rothstein reported yesterday that freshman Andrew Nuss has moved from the defensive line, where he started the season, to the offensive line. This may have something to do with the injury to Dan Wenger, who Charlie Weis said will not be playing against Purdue:

“I’d say, optimistically, it looks like maybe UCLA,” Weis said. “He’s not going to be a go this week, but he’s out there running around now. (UCLA is) what he’s shooting for right now.”

In other news on the injury front, defensive end Justin Brown still seems a bit hobbled in practice. Weis admitted that he “still doesn’t look full speed,” but insisted that Brown “looks a heck of a lot better than any time last week.”

[UPDATE: Rumors abound that sophomore offensive lineman Chris Stewart is going to be the latest player to transfer from ND. This could have something to do with Nuss's move to the OL, though I didn't see Ford or Rothstein mention Stewart being absent from practice yesterday. We'll have to see.]


In other d-line related news, Derrell Hand spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since his arrest for solicitation:

He expressed regret and knew he did a bad thing. And more than anything else, Derrell Hand thanks those who stuck by him as he went through his suspension from the beginning of training camp until last weekend.And in that time, the junior from Philadelphia went from suspended to starter. Hand had been suspended the day before Notre Dame training camp started in August for soliciting a prostitute in South Bend.

“I think I survived it pretty well,” Hand said. “I have a huge supporting cast. What happened was unfortunate. I learned a huge life lesson and I’m just happy I got a second chance to be a part of this Notre Dame family.

“These first four weeks couldn’t have happened any better.”

An injury to starter Justin Brown placed Hand in the lineup in his first game back. He said it was difficult to hear himself associated as someone with bad character but had a bunch of people helping him out.

And he wasn’t surprised with the way Notre Dame chose to handle it, by allowing him to stay in school.

“I feel as though I’m a good kid. I made a lot of close friends, students and faculty, and I just feel like what happened was bad but I feel Notre Dame handled it the way Notre Dame handles these things.”

Best of luck to Derrell as he works to get things back in order. ND can certainly use him on the field, especially if Justin Brown is not 100%.


According to the Cincinnati Post’s Jeff Katzowitz, former Irish QB Demetrius Jones might end up at the University of Cincinnati - Jones was at the Bearcats’ practice on Wednesday, and UC coach Brian Kelly, who recruited Jones out of high school when he was the head coach at Central Michigan, said that he and Jones had been in contact:

We had a good conversation. We talked about the situation here and what we think our strengths are. He’s in that evaluation process now. He’s looking at his options. We’re one of a few of the options he has. He thinks highly enough of us to drive five hours to come up and visit.

When Katzowitz got Jones on the phone yesterday evening, Jones denied rumors that he’d made a final decision, but said that watching the UC practice was “nice.” More on this story as it comes in.

[UPDATE: It's official. Jones walked into Kelly's office this afternoon and told him he wants to play for the Bearcats. Apparently Notre Dame has given UC the go-ahead. Jones will pay his own way for the coming fall quarter, and then will be on scholarship starting in January once several seniors have graduated.]


Meanwhile, want another example of the difference between a respectful sports journalist and an inflammatory hack? Compare Al Lesar’s article about the Purdue offense (it’s a “work of art,” the headline tells us) in today’s South Bend Tribune with the latest screed from the Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz, who was recently, and rightfully, named “Asshat of the Week” by KGreen:

Here was Purdue football coach Joe Tiller’s challenge for Tuesday’s media briefing: Find something nice to say about this week’s opponent, Notre Dame. Try to convince the media and, by extension, his players, that Notre Dame is still Notre Dame and not Apalachicola Junior College.

“They have the fourth-ranked pass defense in the nation,” Tiller said flatly.Give the guy credit: He said it with a straight face.

Holding up Notre Dame’s pass defense is like complimenting the movie “Beer League” on its soundtrack.

Are you kidding me?

Of course the Irish have impressive pass defense numbers. It’s because they have the 111th-ranked running defense in the nation. Nobody passes on Notre Dame because nobody needs to pass on Notre Dame. Opponents get huge early leads, then run off tackle the rest of the game.

Next thing, we’ll hear that Notre Dame has a sparkling personality and practices good hygiene.

I’ll let that one speak for itself.

Bob Kravitz: Still an asshat.


There’s also a bit of recruiting news to report. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Irish DL commit Omar Hunter received an official offer from USC on Tuesday, and expressed some excitement about it:

When Pete Carroll talks, recruits listen. Even ones already committed to Notre Dame. Buford’s Omar Hunter visited with Carroll over the phone Tuesday and received an offer from the coach of top-ranked Southern Cal.

“It was pretty exciting. Southern Cal, that’s pretty big,” said Hunter, who verbally committed to Notre Dame in June.

That doesn’t mean the blue-chip defensive tackle has changed his mind about heading to South Bend.

“I’m sticking with Notre Dame for right now,” Hunter said.

At this point, there’s no reason to worry too much about this, since Hunter has said that his commitment to the Irish is solid, and this sort of thing is really a normal part of the recruiting cycle. But it’s certainly a situation worth keeping an eye on, and I can guarantee you that Weis and the coaching staff will be doing just that.

Attention ND recruits: Charlie Weis isn’t going anywhere

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

When a poster on the IrishEnvy boards wrote that there were “reports out of Chicago” that Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was going to leave his alma mater to take up the head coaching position with the New York Giants, I was puzzled. I mean, I remembered reading an OPINION column from the Chicago Sun-Times in which Irish-hater and all-around asshat extraordinaire Jay “Mute Him, Please” Mariotti wrote this:

Don’t be shocked, should the Flailing Irish start 0-8 and finish 2-10, if Weis seeks a convenient escape hatch in January: the New York Giants. How interesting that Tom Coughlin’s tenure is ending as Weis, a New Jersey native and former Giants assistant under Bill Parcells, stumbles in his so-called dream job. … Very quietly, as we see happen every year in the coaching racket, politics will move incrementally to airlift Weis from his South Bend nightmare and into the Meadowlands. The longer he stays, the more sheen he loses from his once-golden reputation. And with the Chicago Public League becoming a recruiting problem zone after the fiasco involving benched quarterback Demetrius Jones, who was used as an unwitting short-term pawn while designated hotshot Jimmy Clausen recovered from injuries, Weis is falling out of favor in too many places.

This, of course, is hardly a “report”: it’s just a columnist with nothing intelligent to say, making things up to stir the pot. But this didn’t stop other newspaper and internet columnists, gullible bloggers, and - apparently, reading between the lines of that original post as well as this one - sports talk radio hosts from treating Mariotti’s idle musings as if they were based on some sort of inside information.

On closer inspection, it turns out that Mariotti wasn’t even the first columnist to “break” this non-story: almost a full week earlier, Akron Beacon Journal columnist George Thomas had written of “[r]umors swirling around Weis and his future and how the New York Giants would love to make him mentor to Eli Manning as that team begins its free fall.” The fact that this sentence occurred just two paragraphs before the claim that “None of today’s high school seniors were born” (!!) would, one might think, be enough to discredit such “rumors” altogether.

But it won’t, nor will the fact that Mariotti and the rest of his ilk haven’t got a leg to stand on, let alone anyone “inside” ND or the Giants organization to back them up, when they make claims like this. Mariotti happily reminds us, of course, that Charlie Weis reportedly called the Giants his “dream job” when he interviewed with the Giants back in 2004 for what is now Tom Coughlin’s position. But even if that story - which is once again all that it is, mind you - is true it’s hard to put much stock in what someone says when he’s angling for a promotion. Meanwhile, Mariotti naturally fails to mention that Weis said a year or so ago, when first round of unfounded Weis-to-the-Giants speculation started rolling, that “I’m staying here until they fire me or I die.”

My real gripe, though, doesn’t lie so much with idiot sports journalists as with the nefarious ends to which desperate coaches will employ their musings. Georgia defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who committed to the Irish over the summer, has reportedly said that opposing coaches are using rumors like this one to encourage him to jump ship. This, of course, is scuzziness of the worst sort, but it’s hardly unsurprising to anyone who follows recruiting much.

But Big Omar is not one to be swayed by such nonsense, nor - hopefully - are the rest of our recruits. By all accounts, Weis and the rest of the coaching staff have been doing a great of staying in touch with his committed players, to make sure that they’re up to speed on what’s happening with the program, that their questions are answered, and that they have no reason to worry about whether he’ll leave his beloved alma mater hanging out to dry. That this kind of thing needs to be done is certainly clear enough to them after the fiasco that was the end of the 2007 recruiting season - and with defensive coordinator Corwin Brown as his right-hand man, there’s no reason to think that Weis isn’t more than capable of keeping this little brushfire under control.

Have you heard, though, that Urban Meyer and Pete Carroll are on the short lists for 0-3 Buffalo, St. Louis, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami? Watch out, kids …

Look at me, Ma!
I’m a shameless rumor-mongerer and an all-around jerk!